When working with bereaved kids, and sometimes adults, I always end up talking about grief monsters. These are ugly looking creatures that live in our bodies that take over when our grief feelings become too big. Each of us has one and none of them look the same. Some people’s monsters are red or black. Some monsters live in people’s chest or even above their bodies just following them wherever they go.
My grief monster is pictured above. It’s green with sharp spikes and it lives deep in my stomach on my left side. Most of the time it’s small and I don’t notice its existence, but there are times that this green thing takes over my entire body. It feels rough and sharp and has a voice that booms like thunder. It is hard to ignore when it decides to take over my thoughts, feelings, and actions. I wonder what does your grief monster look like? What color is it on the outside? How big is the monster? Where does it live? What does it sound like when it makes noise? You could take a minute to draw it out on paper so you can see it outside of your body.
So we have these monsters, now what do we do with them? They want something from us and they need attention. They want to be seen, heard, listened to, and taken care of. Everyone’s solution to dealing with their monsters is going to look different. When I start to feel my green friend take over, I start by putting on music. Typically, it’s my “sad” CD that I keep in my car for such an occasion. Since it has been proven that listening to sad music helps you feel better, I pop that CD in my disc player and start listening to these 10 songs that I have compiled to make me feel any emotion I need to feel.
You may find something else makes your grief monster go back to it’s home in your body. Some people find that some sort of exercise helps them clear their mind. Going for a run or dancing may help you feel better. Others may find that calling a friend or family member could help them with their grief monster has taken over. Hearing a familiar voice other that comforts your monster may be something that helps you. I encourage you to think about what kind of activities will help you acknowledge your grief monster to shrink it back to its more contained size.
Regaining control over this monster may not be a one size fits all solution each time it takes over. There may be days that it takes longer than just a thirty minute drive listening to music to make it shrink back down to it’s more manageable size. There may be days in which its invasion of your whole body lasts hours, maybe even a couple days. Take the time that you need to sit with this monster and the emotions that it brings up. Listen to it and see what it needs. I understand that this may sound weird, but I believe that when we turn a problem into a separate entity it is easier to face and deal with. When we label something that’s going on inside us as something separate we can talk to it and say “I see you and I hear you. What do you need right now?” These moments in which we tend to this monster and the feelings that it represents are important along your grief journey. If we ignore the monster, it is going to keep growing and take over other parts of our life- possibly our job, relationships, and overall well being. When we take the time to take care of these feelings, we improve our own self awareness.
I hope that you take some time to figure out what your own monster looks like and where it lives. The next time that you start to feel it taking over, listen to it and see what it needs, and I hope that you will find the best way to manage it that suits your needs best.